Doha, Qatar, October 4, 2012 – At this year’s FIVB Club World Championships, to be held in Qatar from October 13 to 19, local club Al-Arabi faces a different challenge than they have in past years.
Al-Arabi had automatically qualified for the 2009, 2010 and 2011 editions by virtue of being the League champions of the host nation. But each time they failed to make a strong impression, being unable to advance past the group stage.
This year, they won the Asian Club Championship in Shanghai, China and earned a berth as continental champions.
They are determined to make the most of their new position as they fine-tune their preparations for their fourth appearance in the tournament, according to interviews the team gave Doha Stadium Plus, a Qatari sports weekly.
“All these years, we were there at the Club Worlds by default. But this time, we’ve earned our berth. We want to prove that we can compete with the best teams in the world,” said Al-Arabi team manager Jassim Mohammed Al Kuwari.
European champions Zenit Kazan of Russia, African winners Zamalek of Egypt and Poland’s wildcard entrants PGE Belchatow are the other teams drawn alongside Al-Arabi in Group B. Al Kuwari was candid in admitting that the job is easier said than done.
“I know it’s a tough task,” he said. “But the Asian title has boosted our confidence. Nobody had given us a chance in China, yet we pulled it off. This time, we’re definitely eyeing a semifinal berth.”
As part of their effort to improve, Al-Arabi have recruited Mauro Grasso as coach. The Brazilian brings with him a wealth of experience, having managed teams like Pinheiros in his native country and Puerto Rico’s Mets de Guaynabo.
Tunisian Mawia Alajnaf, the caretaker coach who helped Al-Arabi win the Asian title, will assist Grossa. The new coach is optimistic.
“It’s a new challenge for me,” said Grasso. “I know that miracles don’t happen overnight. The most important thing for me is to find the right chemistry and team composition, which will translate into victories.”
The Brazilian showed that he means business with his training regimen at the Al-Arabi training hall last week.
“I’m more like an elder brother to the players. I always believe in constantly raising the bar. I want my team to be the best,” he said.
Going by the quality of teams in the fray for the Club Worlds, Al-Arabi are far from being favourites. But Grasso has it in him to make them one of the best.
|I know it’s a tough task. But the Asian title has boosted our confidence. Nobody had given us a chance in China, yet we pulled it off. This time, we’re definitely eyeing a semifinal berth.|
Though Al-Arabi lost all their group matches in 2009, they had one victory in each of the 2010 and 2011 editions. This time, they are eyeing at least a semifinal berth. They hope for much more this year - the first time they have earned a berth at the Club World Championships as continental champions.